Universities show signs of taking issue seriously

By Marcus Dysch, December 16, 2010

Campaigners believe there is "light at the end of the tunnel" in the ongoing effort to restrict hate speakers' appearances on university campuses.

Jewish community representatives working with vice-chancellors say that despite an initially "slow and poor response", higher education bodies have now accepted action must be taken against campus extremism.

At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron said: "We have not done enough to deal with the promotion of extremist Islamism in our country… to deradicalise our universities we have to take a range of further steps."

Universities UK is expected to publish guidelines on the issue in January. The report has been delayed due to the number of organisations and people consulted.

Malcolm Grant, who heads the working group preparing the report, has repeatedly refused to speak publically about campus extremism.

UUK declined to comment on Abdel Bari Atwan's controversial appearance at LSE last week and the apparent suicide attack launched by Bedfordshire University graduate Taimur Adbdulwahab al-Abdaly in Sweden at the weekend.

But Jewish community representatives who have assisted the working group said that Professor Grant's apparent recalcitrance is not mirrored by his colleagues.

UUK chief executive Nicola Dandridge is believed to be leading the push to implement reforms.

UJS has regularly lobbied MPs on the issue and a delegation from the union, the Community Security Trust and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism have met Universities Minister David Willetts to discuss the issue.

He is said to be waiting for the publication of the UUK guidelines, and a similar document being drawn up by the National Union of Students, before outlining the government's response.

The Board of Deputies has also defended its work to aid students. Jonathan Arkush, senior vice-president, said the Board continually assesses campus events along with UJS and CST, and regularly approaches universities to encourage safeguards to be put in place.

He said: "Communal concerns about the wellbeing of Jewish students on campus are valid and the Board takes the subject extremely seriously, as our actions to date have demonstrated.

"The Board will certainly carry out a careful assessment to identify any areas where further action can be taken and put in place the necessary steps to implement it."

Last updated: 10:34am, December 17 2010